Turkish candidate aims to take Berlin seat
9 September 2005 , BERLIN - Ahmet Iyidirli is confident he will be one of a handful of candidates of Turkish origin to secure a seat in the new German parliament by taking an inner-Berlin constituency for the Social Democrats.
9 September 2005
BERLIN - Ahmet Iyidirli is confident he will be one of a handful of candidates of Turkish origin to secure a seat in the new German parliament by taking an inner-Berlin constituency for the Social Democrats.
A dedicated fighter against discrimination in all its forms, Iyidirli is nevertheless banking on the ethnic Turkish vote in the constituency with the cumbersome name Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg-Prenzlauer Berg Ost to boost his chances.
The incumbent is Hans-Christian Stroebele of the Greens, who squeezed out the SPD candidate in 2002 by a margin of fewer than 4,000 votes, causing one of the biggest upsets of that election.
"If I can turn around just half of those - perhaps among the Turkish community - I can make it," says the economist, who left his native Turkey for Berlin in 1975.
Iyidirli, a shy 49-year-old with a soft handshake, is out pumping the flesh on a warm afternoon, days before the election
As he makes his way through the constituency, he receives a hearty welcome from his Turkish compatriots, but not many of them can vote - only some 10,000 he estimates.
Germans are a bit more reserved, many refusing his proffered pamphlet and handshake. "We will be voting for the CDU, for Angela Merkel," says one burly man drinking a beer at the Kuchen Kaiser cafe in Kreuzberg.
Another is more complimentary. "You look much better in the flesh than on the posters. Get a new photograph taken," he advises the beaming candidate.
Iyidirli's small team is sadly disorganized. There is no clear strategy and more time is given over to talking to the two journalists accompanying them than to the constituents on the street.
They've forgotten to bring along enough pamphlets and have no means to put up the posters they carry when a friendly Turkish tobacconist offers to display one in his window.
But Iyirdili, an economist who emigrated to Germany in 1975 and no longer holds Turkish nationality, has clear aims, drawn from a life spent working on social projects.
He is not satisfied with the tolerance most Germans show to the roughly 2.5 million people of Turkish origin in their midst.
"Multiculturalism is not sitting here in a bar seeing a woman walk past wearing an Islamic scarf or dressed in an Indian sari and accepting this. It means much more, it means participation, it means people of Turkish origin in public office, in management," he says.
There are just two people of Turkish origin in the current Bundestag, and Iyidirli holds out little hope of a large increase in this. "There might be up to four, including me, after September 18," he says.
In his election pamphlet he describes his strengths as "my encyclopaedic memory, my reliability and my patience" and his greatest weakness as the fact that he still smokes.
The central themes are those of his party - social justice, equality of opportunity and the acceptance of diversity - but it is the last that is his main focus.
"Even though there are so many immigrants here, there is not a single school head in the constituency of non-German origin," he says.
Iyidirli acknowledges that Stroebele, a Green with impeccable leftist credentials who was once himself a member of the SPD, has his heart in the right place.
"But it's the same old story, Germans trying to do the right thing for others. We need members of the ethnic minorities to participate in the political process," he says. The word "participate" is given special emphasis.
Subject: German news